Teal Deer : MYST for OHR with magic vampirella-succubus dressup times.
So it's no secret that Phoenix is one of my favorite OHR game devs, and I get a little excited when he drops a new game out every now and then because each one is A E S T H E T I C as all hell. They're also (for the most part) complete adventures with charming characters and musical scores that compliment the environments they're taking place in. All of them, without exception, also involve labyrinths of some sort with an emphasis on exploration. This one's no different.
So let's talk a little about the characters and the setting first, because this could probably be considered the third in a trilogy of games involving witchy protagonists. That's right, the third, despite being called Witch2. These games tend to revolve around the bubble-headed Verdi, her "straight-man" partner Wyrd, and their mutual on-again-off-again rivals witch Norn and vampiress Carmilla. Most of these games' humor is usually Verdi saying or doing something outlandish, and then whoever's around her reacting with a flat what. But this one's different, mainly in that the witches themselves are secondary, and that we're playing as the series antagonist Carmilla this time around. I SAY antagonist, because.. well, she's not really evil, and nothing that she's done in the series comes across as really malicious. Truly, we are living in a No More Villains world.
So Halloween rolls around again, and the witches, vampires, and spooks all gather in the Centennial Castle for the big celebration. Due to magical shenanigans, Carmilla's collection of costumes have been absconded, and she's got to track down all 32 pieces again. Except this isn't so much Dracula's castle where there's monsters around every corner lying in wait to ambush, so much as a leisurely stroll down the french riviera laughing and waving at the zany passerbys as you search under every nook and cranny for that next glove or dress to complete your next outfit. And you can LEAVE at any time, whether you've put together ANY outfits or NONE. But you're a dedicated fashionista, right?
So this is a game completely sans combat of any sort, and the entire emphasis is on exploration (as opposed to a game without any exploration, and is completely about the combat - more on that at a future date). You'll wander around the very blue castle, pressing up against walls in search of secret passages, trying on different combinations of outfits to see if the inhabitants give you different hints, and working your way up to 100% completion of your wardrobe. In fact, you might be walking around the halls wearing one particular outfit only to find that the room layouts have completely changed when you pass through wearing a completely different costume. It's unexpected, but maybe it's more in-character for Carmilla/Wyrd/Norn to just "roll with it", especially after putting up with Verdi's goofiness for so long.
The castle's environments have a VERY Super Gameboy visual aesthetic, with shades of blue-gray for the set pieces, and everything you can interact with is rendered in orange, so unless you're partially colorblind, you'll KNOW what's worth investigating and what isn't. Everything's also rendered with large sprites, which makes this game just look and feel so much nicer that what it would've been with smaller characters. In truth, I would've liked to see MORE use of color - having the environments change tone slightly would've been a welcome addition to telling what's inside and what's outside. As it is, the game's environments look like you're taking a moonlit stroll through a long abandoned castle, which is GREAT but it does become a little dull after a while. Swap the darkest blue with a deep violet and the lightest blue with a pale yellow and you've got the makings of a truly spooky and surreal adventure.
The music once again is from the Vyacheslav Mescherin Orchestra Collection, which is basically a collection of "stock" music for Russian animated cartoons.The theremin is strong here. It sets the tone well, this is a leisurely stroll, not a gritty adventure. I really can't say much more about it (I am not a music critic and mostly tone deaf in one ear anyway), aside from that the tracks are all well chosen and feel thematically appropriate for the areas where they're placed. OHR game devs seem to have been getting better over time at placing musical tracks in their games that just FEEL right at home, rather than placing FF7's battle theme in Midi wherever.
The long and short of this game is that it's a great game whose emphasis is on the exploration, and a welcome addition to the ranks of OHR Halloween Contest games.
To friends long gone, and those I've yet to meet - thank you.